Radio Show

August Turak: Brother John and the Purpose of Life


August Turak, author and friend of the show, stops by the show to discuss his new book, “Brother John: A Monk, A Pilgrim, and the Purpose of Life.”

Father Dave asks August how he got involved with the Trappist monks, “It happened when I was an entrepreneur.” August explains. “I’m coaching all these college students in the North Carolina area at Duke University. And these Duke kids talked me into going skydiving with them. I went and busted my ankle and ended up in the hospital and started having panic attacks. This launches what I call my two-year dark night of the soul. A couple of months after that, I got a phone call from one of my students and he said he took my advice to do something with his summer. He told me he was spending the summer at a Trappist monastery … and I just blurted out, ‘I gotta come.’ … I went down that weekend and was blown away.”

August discusses the story behind Brother John, “It was Christmas Eve and I was living at the abbey, and you wake up at 3 a.m. every day, including Christmas Eve, and go to church eight times a day and work in the fields. Except, instead of going to bed at 8 p.m. like you usually do, you would go to Mass and then to a party with cookies and cider … So I go to this party and I’m so tired so I decide to go to bed. I head for the door and it’s pouring down rain and freezing and I don’t have an umbrella. So I open the door and the light pours out of the door and there’s somebody standing under an umbrella out there. And I said, ‘Brother John, what are you doing?’ And he said, ‘I’m here to walk people back to their rooms who have forgotten their umbrellas.’ And he walked me back to my room and it was an earth shattering experience for me … here’s a man who has been in the monastery for 50 years. He gets up earlier than anybody, works harder and prayers harder than anybody, and rather than have a cookie and glass of cider once a year, he would stand out in 38 degree weather in the rain just in case some bozo like me forgets his umbrella. How does someone get like this? Why am I not like this? Why aren’t we all like this? This becomes the genesis of the rest of the story.” (Original Air 1-23-19)

Photo Credit: Trappist monks worship during noon prayers April 29 at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Mass. May, 19, 2015. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)